Torah Portion

Parashat Lech Lecha

A World of Tests

The beginning of the great journey of Avraham is leaving the atmosphere familiar to him, leaving his area of activity, from the same place where his name was already known.  Of course Hashem promised him that he would make his name great, increase his possessions, and even merit him with a son, however despite all of this, many times people forego their journey because of considerations of comfort or because of fear of a loss.

lech lecha

Harav Israel Asulin

Wednesday, 8th of MarCheshvan, 5776

BS”D

The book Shevet Yehudah tells about a family who had been expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition.  They lost all of their possessions and sailed into exile so as not to be forced to give up their religion.  The captain let them off on the shores of Morocco, near the dry desert.  They began walking in order to find a town.  The sun was beating down, their mouths were dry with thirst, and the mother of the family fainted and died.  The husband continued with his two sons, carrying them in his two hands until he collapsed while carrying them.  When he woke up he found that his two sons had died.  He was left alone in the world.  He lifted his eyes to heaven and said from within his sorrow: “Master of the world, the Satan tried everything he could to shake my faith, but nothing will help him: against his will, I am a Jew and I will remain a Jew.”

“Our forefather Avraham was tested with ten trials, and he withstood them all” (Ethics of our Fathers, Chapter 5, 4th Mishna)

Our forefather Avraham went through a process of ten trials.

The purpose of the tests, at their root, is to cause us to deal with them.

Facing the challenge causes us, assuming that we succeed in it, to be uplifted (in truth, even when we don’t succeed, and it seems we are far from the goal, Rebbe Nachman explains that even when it seems that we are being shown distance from above, it is in reality bringing us closer, maybe it is a temporary distancing, however the distance challenges us to try to succeed next time).

The ascent comes from the same place where we bring out the strengths inside of us, the same strengths which we don’t use on a daily basis, and maybe we are not even aware of their existence.  Using these strengths obligates us to overcome the same blocks which prevent us from realizing our vision.  We have a tradition that a person is not tested from heaven with a test which he can’t withstand, because that is the purpose of the test, (test is) from the language of נס- a flag- to uplift the person.

The Ramban[1] comments (Genesis, Chapter 22): “God tested Avraham.  The matter of a test is in my opinion, since the actions of a person are completely in his hands, if he wants to do something he does it, and if not he doesn’t do it.  It is called a test for the one being tested, but the one testing him, blessed be he, wants the person to actualize his potential, to receive reward for a good act and not just reward for a good heart.  You should know that ‘Hashem the righteous one He examines’ (Psalms, Chapter 11, Verse 5), when he knows that a tsaddik[2] will do His will and Hashem wants to raise him up, he will bring upon him a test, and he won’t examine the wicked ones who won’t listen to him.  We find that all of the tests in the Torah are for the good of the one who is tested.”

We’ll mention now some of the tests which Avraham our forefather went through and what we can learn from them.

The first test: “Go for yourself from your land” (Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 1)

The beginning of the great journey of Avraham is leaving the atmosphere familiar to him, leaving his area of activity, from the same place where his name was already known.  Of course Hashem promised him that he would make his name great, increase his possessions, and even merit him with a son, however despite all of this, many times people forego their journey because of considerations of comfort or because of fear of a loss.

At this point Avraham is not required to change his essence, rather to begin acting- leaving his place and going to a different one.  Avraham our forefather is revealed as a person who in order to find the truth in the root of his soul, in order to realize his vision, is willing to go out into the unknown (“to the land that I will show you”- He doesn’t tell him which land).  Avraham gave to all of us, his children, this power to go until the end of the world in order to find our internal essence.

The second test: Descending to Egypt because of the famine- “There was famine in the land” (Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 10)

The second test of Avraham expresses itself in stumbling blocks which distance him from his goal.  It is true that there are many good people who don’t even begin the process and remain in their comfort zone.  However, the beginning is not everything- many times people begin to make a change with faith and a lot of energy, but the moment they reach the first stumbling block, they break and become despaired.

This is the meaning of the descent to Egypt- a narrow place.  After the first feeling of euphoria evaporates and a man begins to face the difficulties of the change he wants to make, he is in danger of losing all his strength, and the doubts could eat up all of the energy that he started the journey with.  Avraham doesn’t despair, he descends to Egypt.

In the end he ascends from Egypt with great wealth- not just physical, but also spiritual strength, with the ability to overcome all of the road blocks on his journey.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato[3] writes (The Path of the Just, Chapter 1) that the main reality of a person in this world is to fulfill the commandments and to serve Hashem and to withstand the test, and the holy Baal Shem Tov[4] said “this world is the world of the test”.

May it be His will not to

[1] One of the great Rabbis and Torah commentators, lived between 1194-1270

[2] Righteous person

[3] A great Rabbi and kabbalist who lived in Italy in the 1700s

[4] The founder of the Chassidic movement

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